The Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre has qualified counsellors, informative brochures and educational videos for its clients. Recently the centre introduced its new tool to help prevent abortion.
A total of 33 Knights of Columbus councils from in and around Edmonton donated money for an ultrasound machine. It is a diagnostic method using high frequency sound waves to obtain images internally.
A celebration, highlighted by Archbishop Richard Smith's blessing of the new machine, was held March 4.
Society tells a pregnant woman that what's inside her is not a baby yet. She expects to see a small black circle. But when she sees the tiny fingers and toes, her perception changes, said Lorie McMillan, director of the centre.
"It's been proven that by having an ultrasound machine, up to 90 per cent of women coming to a pregnancy crisis centre change their mind (about aborting their pregnancies) once they realize there is an actual baby," McMillan said.
"It's not just a blob of tissue or a little speck on a paper."
Most women, even if they come to the crisis centre with abortion as their main choice, change their minds once they see genuine life inside of them, she said.
"This machine is not used to diagnose anything. It's strictly used to affirm the fact there is a life there," said McMillan.
Since its blessing, five women have had ultrasounds done. Now that word is getting out about the machine through advertising in the Yellow Pages, brochures and their new website (www.edpregnancy.ca), McMillan anticipates even more use.
A couple of years ago, the Knights' supreme office began to encourage councils to purchase ultrasound machines for organizations that help women cope with pregnancies. Throughout the United States, the Knights donated 70 units to pregnancy crisis centres.
Locally, the idea was that the Knights in Alberta would pay half the cost, while the supreme office in New Haven, Conn., would provide the other half.
"That didn't really pan out very well. There were some concerns with this being the first one placed in Canada," explained McMillan. Health regulations prevented the Knights in the United States from upholding their end of the deal.
With that in mind, Andrew Tarnowski, a member of Father Bonner Council, based in St. Thomas More Parish, set out to see if one could be acquired for the Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre.
"If we haven't got the go-ahead from down south, he said that he would take the task upon himself to raise the rest of the money here in Alberta - and that he did. It was paid for 100 per cent in Alberta," said McMillan.
It was a frustrating task for the Knights, but their persistence and dedication paid off. They became the first Canadian councils to enable a pregnancy crisis centre to purchase a unit.
Several councils, assemblies and Columbus clubs raised $40,000 to buy a used Sonosite M-Turbo 2D ultrasound machine and pay for its operating costs.
Each ultrasound takes about 40 minutes. The unit has a wall-mounted large TV monitor for the expectant mothers to view the image.
A sonographer has volunteered her time to operate the unit at the centre. She comes in according to need.
The Edmonton Pregnancy Crisis Centre moved to its new 1,200-square-foot location (11125-107 Ave.) in July 2011. Situated along a major bus route, the new location is in close proximity to St. Joseph's High School, Grant MacEwan University and NAIT.
Many clients are concerned about how a pregnancy will impact school, careers, finances and reputations. A pregnancy can also become a crisis when it is complicated by family tension, broken relationships or health concerns. Women are counselled on how to deal with these kinds of life-changing difficulties.
The education goes beyond what young women learn in school. The counsellors provide information to their clients on the psychological aftermath of abortion, fetal development and chastity.